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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
I have saved my progress as Fake gray card adjustment.psd found inside the 14_levels_curves folder. In this exercise, we are going to throw away essentially all the automatic stuff that we've done so far. We are going to apply some custom numerical adjustments on a channel by channel basis. So go ahead and double-click on the thumbnail in front of Levels there in order to bring up the Adjustments panel. I am going to once again reset my options by clicking on the Reset button. Then I am going to click on Auto.
The reason I am clicking on Auto is I want to go ahead and automatically reposition my black-and-white points at the beginning and end of the big mountainous histogram on a channel by channel basis. That's something I am going to need to do anyway. So I might as well have Photoshop do it for me automatically in advance. So I will click on Auto and we get this change here. We are not really terribly concerned with the accuracy of the modifications so far, because we are going to be modifying our settings. Notice that we have a stretched histogram, so we have an after view of the histogram.
There are no changes to the numbers under the histogram. So that means that Photoshop has made its modifications on a channel by channel basis. This channel by channel number happens regardless of which Auto command you apply. So even if, I will go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Auto button to bring up the Auto Color Correction Options dialog box, even if I decide to enhance the Monochromatic Contrast which theoretically operates on the composite histogram and then click on OK, why, then again I've got a stretched histogram, and I have no settings.
Instead, I have modifications on a channel by channel basis, and I want you to see this here. Each of the channels has a keyboard shortcut, and I am going to be employing them just so I can quickly switch back-and-forth without the headache of having to go to this little pop-up menu over and over again. Notice it's Alt+2 or Option+2 for the RGB image, and then Alt or Option+3, 4, 5 for Red, Green, and Blue or whatever color channels are at work inside of your image. So if it's CMYK image, it would be Alt+2 or Option+2, for CMYK; then Alt or Option+3 through 6, for Cyan through Black.
Anyway, I am going to go ahead and switch to the Red channel here. Press the Escape key, so that option is no longer active. Notice that the black point value is 47, the other values are unchanged. Then if I press Alt+4 or Option+4 for the Green channel, 47; the others are unchanged; Alt or Option for blue, 47; the others aren't changed. So even though Auto Contrast applied its modifications on a channel by channel basis, it applied the exact same modifications to each and every channel. So it would've been the same, we would get the exact same result, as if I clicked on the Reset button, switched back to RGB, and changed the Black value inside of the composite view to 47.
That is the exact same color correction right there. Anyway, I am going to just click on Auto to apply the Auto Tone function; that is, we are changing the black-and-white points differently on a channel by channel basis. Now, because we already have a little bit of clipping in the original image as indicated by that line on the far right-hand side of the graph, Auto Tone is not going to change the white point value. It just changed the black point values. As we can see here, if I press Alt+3 or Option+3, then the black point is 80; Alt+4 or Option+4 and the black point is 50, and the green channel; Alt+5 or Option+5, and the black point is 44 in the blue channel. All right! So that's a good starting point.
When I typically do then as I might go ahead and back it off, like I'm looking at this image and thinking, we may not have absolutely clipped the shadow detail in the eyelashes, and the eyebrows and below her neck, but we are definitely getting awfully dark to the point that we're losing a lot of detail. So I am going to start at my Red channel by pressing Alt+3 or Option+3 and I will click inside that black point value which is 80 currently, and I will press Shift+Down-arrow twice to take it down to 60. Then I will press Alt+4 or Option+4 in order to switch to the Green channel.
It starts out as 50. I will press Shift+Down-arrow once this time around to drop it down to 40. Notice that in each case, here is once again the Red channel, and here is the Green channel. I want you to see that in each case we are just clipping a few colors right there, few existing luminance levels inside the image. So the Auto button on its own is going to clip 0.1%, then we are backing it off, so we are clipping more like I would say 0 .05% of the Luminance levels inside the image. So I really want to be as kind and loving to that original image as possible.
Now, I will press Alt+5 or Option+5 in order to switch to the Blue channel and I will press Shift+Down-arrow to reduce that value to 34, or I might even take it up to 35 let's say. So where the black point values are concerned, I have got 60 in the Red channel, 40 in the Green channel, 35 in the Blue channel. Now, we want to turn around and modify the Gamma settings and I am going to start here inside the Blue channel because the image has a little bit of a red color cast as we've discussed many times so far. I will tab over to my Gamma value, and I am going to press Shift+Up-arrow.
We've countered that red color cast by increasing the brightness of the other two channels. So I'll take that Gamma value up to 1.1. Now, she's a little bit too blue. So let's press Alt+4 or Option+4 to switch to the Green channel. Notice my Gamma value is still active. So the value stays active as you switch channels, which is actually a helpful thing. I will press Shift+Up-arrow here. Now she looks too green, so I am going to back it off. I will press the Down-arrow key a few times until I reduce that Gamma value to 1.05.
That looks pretty darn good to me. It doesn't look perfect and you are not always going to get perfection out of levels or curves or any of these features for that matter because you are always trying to compensate for the original image. If the original image isn't perfect in the first place, then all you are really going to do to it is reduce its levels of imperfection. It may not make it totally perfect. Anyway, this looks pretty darn good though, I have to say. If I turn off Levels, this is what she looked like before. This is what the image looks like with my Levels adjustments that I have applied so far.
Now, the one other thing I would like to do is really increase the saturation of this image because the more time I spend with it, the more it comes off as being awfully darn drab. I am going to add a Vibrance Adjustment layer. Now I haven't given you a keyboard shortcut for Vibrance. So we are going to have to create that one manually. I will click on this left-pointing arrowhead in the bottom left corner of the Adjustments panel to switch back to the list of color adjustments available to me. Then I have got this guy right there Vibrance. I will Alt+Click or Option+Click on that first icon in the second row, and I will call this guy color blaster and I will click OK.
Now, I am going to increase the Saturation value just a little bit. I am going to press Shift-Up-arrow a couple of times in a row to take that saturation value up to +20. Then I am going to send that Vibrance value through the roof. I am going to take it up to 85% like so, and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac. That is my final version of the image. I will collapse the Adjustments panel by double-clicking to the right of masks and then I will Alt+click or Option+Click the eyeball in front of the background layer, so that we can see the before version of the image. Here's what she looked like when we originally opened her so long ago, and here's what she looks like now.
Thanks to a combination of the Levels and Vibrance commands working together here inside Photoshop.
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